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Senecas Embassy of Peace to the Cherokees

In the course of the long and fierce war between the Six Nations and the Cherokees, it happened, said Oliver Silverheels, that eight Senecas determined to go on an embassy of peace. Among them was Little Beard, the elder, and Jack Berry. They met some Cherokees on the confines of the Cherokee territories, to whom they imparted their object. Intelligence of this interview was sent for ward to their village, where the ambassadors were duly received, and after this preliminary reception, they were introduced to the ruling chiefs, and favorably received by the Cherokee council. All but one of the Cherokee chiefs agreed to the terms of peace He also would consent, if, prior to the treaty, the eight Seneca delegates would first consent to go to war against their enemies, situated south of them. [Who their enemies were is not mentioned.] They consented, and set out with a war party. A fight ensued in which the leader of the Senecas, called Awl, was taken prisoner. The other seven escaped. The fate of Awl was decided in the enemies camp, where it was determined that he should be burned at the stake. Preparations were made for this purpose, but as they were about to bind him, he claimed the privilege of a warrior, to sing his death song and recite his exploits by striking the post. Pleased with the spirit of his request, and his noble air and words, his suit was granted, and they put a tomahawk into his hands, that he might go through the ceremony. He began by relating his exploits in the north. He recited...

Elucidation of a Convention, September 11, 1807

Elucidation of a convention with the Cherokee Nation, September 11, 1807. Whereas, by the first article of a convention between the United States and the Cherokee nation, entered into at the city of Washington, on the seventh day of January, one thousand eight hundred and six, it was intended on the part of the Cherokee nation, and so understood by the Secretary of War, the commissioner on the part of the United States, to cede to the United States all the right, title and interest which the said Cherokee nation ever had to a tract of country contained between the Tennessee river and the Tennessee ridge (so called); which tract of country had since the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety four, been claimed by the Cherokees and Chickasaws: the eastern boundary whereof is limited by a line so to be run from the upper part of the Chickasaw Old Fields, as to include all the waters of Elk river, any thing expressed in said convention to the contrary notwithstanding. It is therefore now declared by James Robertson and Return J. Meigs, acting under the authority of the executive of the United States, and by a delegation of Cherokee chiefs, of whom Eunolee or Black Fox, the king or head chief of said Cherokee nation, acting on the part of, and in behalf of said nation, is one, that the eastern limits of said ceded tract shall be bounded by a line so to be run from the upper end of the Chickasaw Old Fields, a little above the upper point of an island, called Chickasaw Island, as...

Cherokee Bear Song

This song, obtained from A’yû´nini in connection with the Cherokee story of the Origin of the Bear, as already mentioned, is sung by the bear hunter, in order to attract the bears, while on his way from the camp to the place where he expects to hunt during the day.

Plants Used in Cherokee Medicine

The results obtained from a careful study of this list may be summarized as follows: Of the twenty plants described as used by the Cherokees, seven (Nos. 2, 4, 5, 13, 15, 17, and 20) are not noticed in the Dispensatory even in the list of plants sometimes used although regarded as not official. It is possible that one or two of these seven plants have medical properties, but this can hardly be true of a larger number unless we are disposed to believe that the Indians are better informed in this regard than the best educated white physicians in the country. Two of these seven plants, however (Nos. 2 and 4), belong to genera which seem to have some of the properties ascribed by the Indians to the species. Five others of the list (Nos. 8, 9, 11, 14, and 16) are used for entirely wrong purposes, taking the Dispensatory as authority, and three of these are evidently used on account of some fancied connection between the plant and the disease, according to the doctrine of signatures. Three of the remainder (Nos. 1, 3, and 6) may be classed as uncertain in their properties, that is, while the plants themselves seem to possess some medical value, the Indian mode of application is so far at variance with recognized methods, or their own statements are so vague and conflicting, that it is doubtful whether any good can result from the use of the herbs. Thus the Unaste´tstiyû, or Virginia Snakeroot, is stated by the Dispensatory to have several uses, and among other things is said to have been highly...

The Cherokee Religion

It is impossible to overestimate the ethnologic importance of the materials thus obtained. They are invaluable as the genuine production of the Indian mind, setting forth in the clearest light the state of the aboriginal religion before its contamination by contact with the whites. To the psychologist and the student of myths they are equally precious. In regard to their linguistic value we may quote the language of Brinton, speaking of the sacred books of the Mayas, already referred to: Another value they have… and it is one which will be properly appreciated by any student of languages. They are, by common consent of all competent authorities, the genuine productions of native minds, cast in the idiomatic forms of the native tongue by those born to its use. No matter how fluent a foreigner becomes in a language not his own, he can never use it as does one who has been familiar with it from childhood. This general maxim is tenfold true when we apply it to a European learning an American language. The flow of thought, as exhibited in these two linguistic families, is in such different directions that no amount of practice can render one equally accurate in both. Hence the importance of studying a tongue as it is employed by natives; and hence the very high estimate I place on these “Books of Chilan Balam” as linguistic material-an estimate much increased by the great rarity of independent compositions in their own tongues by members of the native races of this continent.1 The same author, in speaking of the internal evidences of authenticity contained in the...

The Inâli Manuscript

The Inâli Manuscript In the course of further inquiries in regard to the whereabouts of other manuscripts of this kind we heard a great deal about Inâ´li, or “Black Fox,” who had died a few years before at an advanced age, and who was universally admitted to have been one of their most able men and the most prominent literary character among them, for from what has been said it must be sufficiently evident that the Cherokees have their native literature and literary men. Like those already mentioned, he was a full-blood Cherokee, speaking no English, and in the course of a long lifetime he had filled almost every position of honor among his people, including those of councilor, keeper of the townhouse records, Sunday-school leader, conjurer, officer in the Confederate service, and Methodist preacher, at last dying, as he was born, in the ancient faith of his forefathers. On inquiring of his daughter she stated that her father had left a great many papers, most of which were still in her possession, and on receiving from the interpreter an explanation of our purpose she readily gave permission to examine and make selections from them on condition that the matter should be kept secret from outsiders. A day was appointed for visiting her, and on arriving we found her living in a comfortable log house, built by Inâli himself, with her children and an ancient female relative, a decrepit old woman with snow-white hair and vacant countenance. This was the oldest woman of the tribe, and though now so feeble and childish, she had been a veritable savage in...

Other Manuscripts Used in Cherokee Formulas

Subsequently a few formulas were obtained from an old shaman named Tsiskwa or “Bird,” but they were so carelessly written as to be almost worthless, and the old man who wrote them, being then on his dying bed, was unable to give much help in the matter. However, as he was anxious to tell what he knew an attempt was made to take down some formulas from his dictation. A few more were obtained in this way but the results were not satisfactory and the experiment was abandoned. About the same time A’wani´ta or “Young Deer,” one of their best herb doctors, was engaged to collect the various plants used in medicine and describe their uses. While thus employed he wrote in a book furnished him for the purpose a number of formulas used by him in his practice, giving at the same time a verbal explanation of the theory and ceremonies. Among these was one for protection in battle, which had been used by himself and a number of other Cherokees in the late war. Another doctor named Takwati´hi or “Catawba Killer,” was afterward employed on the same work and furnished some additional formulas which he had had his son write down from his dictation, he himself being unable to write. His knowledge was limited to the practice of a few specialties, but in regard to these his information was detailed and accurate. There was one for bleeding with the cupping horn. All these formulas obtained from Tsiskwa, A´wanita, and Takwtihi are now in possession of the...

Ceremonies for Gathering Plants and Preparing Medicine

There are a number of ceremonies and regulations observed in connection with the gathering of the herbs, roots, and barks, which can not be given in detail within the limits of this paper. In searching for his medicinal plants the shaman goes provided with a number of white and red beads, and approaches the plant from a certain direction, going round it from right to left one or four times, reciting certain prayers the while. He then pulls up the plant by the roots and drops one of the beads into the hole and covers it up with the loose earth. In one of the formulas for hunting ginseng the hunter addresses the mountain as the “Great Man” and assures it that he comes only to take a small piece of flesh (the ginseng) from its side, so that it seems probable that the bead is intended as a compensation to the earth for the plant thus torn from her bosom. In some cases the doctor must pass by the first three plants met until he comes to the fourth, which he takes and may then return for the others. The bark is always taken from the east side of the tree, and when the root or branch is used it must also be one which runs out toward the east, the reason given being that these have imbibed more medical potency from the rays of the sun. When the roots, herbs, and barks which enter into the prescription have been thus gathered the doctor ties them up into a convenient package, which he takes to a running stream...

The Cherokee Alphabet

The sacred Cherokee formulas had been handed down orally from a remote antiquity until the early part of the present century, when the invention of the Cherokee syllabary enabled the priests of the tribe to put them into writing. The same invention made it possible for their rivals, the missionaries, to give to the Indians the Bible in their own language, so that the opposing forces of Christianity and shamanism alike profited by the genius of Sikwâya (Sequoyah). The pressure of the new civilization was too strong to be withstood, however, and though the prophets of the old religion still have much influence with the people, they are daily losing ground and will soon be without honor in their own country. Such an exposition of the aboriginal religion could be obtained from no other tribe in North America, for the simple reason that no other tribe has an alphabet of its own in which to record its sacred lore. It is true that the Crees and Micmacs of Canada and the Tukuth of Alaska have so-called alphabets or ideographic systems invented for their use by the missionaries, while, before the Spanish conquest, the Mayas of Central America were accustomed to note down their hero legends and priestly ceremonials in hieroglyphs graven upon the walls of their temples or painted upon tablets made of the leaves of the maguey. But it seems never to have occurred to the northern tribes that an alphabet coming from a missionary source could be used for any other purpose than the transcription of bibles and catechisms, while the sacred books of the Mayas, with...
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